“This is the way. Walk in it.”—ISAIAH 30:21.
1, 2. (a) Many lives have been saved by what warning? (See opening picture.) (b) God’s people have what guidance that can save their lives?
“STOP, LOOK, LISTEN.” For more than 100 years, these words have appeared on large signs at railroad crossings in North America. Why? So that cars crossing the railroad tracks would not get hit by a speeding train. Paying attention to these warning signs has saved the lives of many people.
2 Jehovah does something better than giving us safety signs. He guides his people so that they can receive everlasting life and stay away from dangers. Jehovah is like a loving shepherd who directs and warns his sheep so that they can avoid dangerous paths.—Read Isaiah 30:20, 21.
JEHOVAH HAS ALWAYS GUIDED HIS PEOPLE
3. How did the human family get on a path leading to death?
3 From the beginning of human history, Jehovah has given people specific instructions or directions. For example, in the garden of Eden, Jehovah gave clear instructions that would guide the human family to everlasting life and happiness. (Genesis 2:15-17) But Adam and Eve rejected the guidance of their loving Father. Eve listened to the advice that seemed to come from a snake, and then Adam listened to his wife. What was the result? Both of them suffered, and they died with no hope. Also, because of their disobedience, the entire human family was on a path leading to death.
4. (a) Why were additional guidelines needed after the Flood? (b) How did new circumstances reveal God’s thinking?
4 God gave Noah directions that saved lives. After the Flood, Jehovah commanded people not to eat or drink blood. Why? Jehovah was now going to allow humans to eat meat. Because of these new circumstances, they needed new guidelines: “Only flesh with its life—its blood—you must not eat.” (Genesis 9:1-4) From this command we learn God’s thinking about life, which belongs to him. He is the Creator and he gives us life, so he has the right to make rules about life. For example, he commanded that humans were not to murder another person. God views life and blood as sacred, and he will punish anyone who misuses them.—Genesis 9:5, 6.
5. What will we now examine, and why?
5 After Noah’s day, God continued to guide his people. In this article, we will look at a few examples of how he guided them. This review will strengthen our decision to follow Jehovah’s direction into the new world.
NEW NATION, NEW GUIDELINES
6. Why was it necessary for God’s people to obey the laws given through Moses, and what attitude did the Israelites need to have?
6 In Moses’ day, Jehovah gave his people clear guidelines on their conduct and worship. Why? Again, circumstances had changed. For more than two hundred years, the Israelites lived in Egypt where everyone around them worshipped the dead, used idols, and did many other things that dishonored God. When God’s people were freed from Egypt, they needed new directions. They would become a nation that followed only Jehovah’s Law. Some reference books say that the Hebrew word for “law” is related to a word that means “direct, guide, instruct.” The Law protected the Israelites from the immorality and false religion of the nations around them. When Israel listened to God, they received his blessing. When they ignored him, they suffered terrible consequences.—Read Deuteronomy 28:1, 2, 15.
7. (a) Explain why Jehovah gave directions to his people. (b) How was the Law a guardian for Israel?
7 New guidelines were needed for another reason. The Law prepared the Israelites for an important event in Jehovah’s purpose, the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Law reminded the Israelites that they were imperfect. It also helped them to understand that they needed a ransom, that is, a perfect sacrifice that would remove their sins completely. (Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 10:1-10) Additionally, the Law protected the family line of the Messiah and helped the Israelites to identify him when he appeared. Yes, the Law was like a temporary guide, or “guardian,” leading to Christ.—Galatians 3:23, 24.
8. Why should we be guided by the principles of the Mosaic Law?
8 As Christians, we too can benefit from the guidelines that Jehovah gave in the Law. In what way? We can stop and look at the principles that the Law is based on. Even though we are no longer under those laws, we can still rely on many of them as guides in our everyday lives and worship of Jehovah. He had those laws recorded in the Bible so that we could learn from them, be guided by their principles, and be grateful that Jesus taught us something greater than the Law. Listen to what Jesus said: “You heard that it was said: ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So not only do we need to avoid the act of adultery but we also need to reject immoral thoughts and desires.—Matthew 5:27, 28.
9. What new circumstances made new direction from God necessary?
9 After Jesus came as the Messiah, Jehovah gave new instructions and revealed more details about his purpose. Why was this necessary? In the year 33, Jehovah rejected the nation of Israel and chose the Christian congregation to be his people. So the circumstances of God’s people were once again new.
GUIDANCE FOR SPIRITUAL ISRAEL
10. Why were new laws given to the Christian congregation, and how were these different from those given to the Israelites?
10 Jehovah had given the Mosaic Law to the Israelites to teach them how to live and worship him. Beginning in the first century, God’s people were no longer from one nation but from many nations and backgrounds, and they were called spiritual Israel. They formed the Christian congregation and were under a new covenant. Jehovah gave them new or expanded instructions on how to live and worship him. Truly, “God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10:34, 35) They followed “the law of the Christ,” which was based mainly on principles that were written, not on stone, but on their hearts. This law would guide and benefit Christians wherever they lived.—Galatians 6:2.
11. What are two aspects of Christian life that would be affected by “the law of the Christ”?
11 Spiritual Israel benefited greatly from Jehovah’s guidance through Jesus. Just before he introduced the new covenant, Jesus gave two important commands. One was about the preaching work. The other was about the way Christians should act and treat one another. These instructions were for all Christians, so they apply to all of us today, whether we hope to live forever in heaven or on earth.
12. What was new about the preaching work?
12 In the past, people of the nations had to come to Israel to serve Jehovah. (1 Kings 8:41-43) But then Jesus gave the command that we find at Matthew 28:19, 20. (Read.) Jesus told his disciples to “go” to all people. At Pentecost in the year 33, Jehovah showed that he wanted the good news to be preached all over the world. That day, about 120 members of the new congregation were filled with holy spirit and started speaking in different languages to Jews and proselytes. (Acts 2:4-11) Next, the territory was expanded to include the Samaritans. Then, in the year 36, the territory expanded even more to include uncircumcised Gentiles. This meant that Christians had to go preach to everyone in the world!
13, 14. (a) What is involved in Jesus’ “new commandment”? (b) What do we learn from the example that Jesus set?
13 Jesus also gave “a new commandment” about how to treat our brothers and sisters. (Read John 13:34, 35.) We must show our love for them every day, but we must also be willing to give our life for them. That is something that was not required by the Law.—Matthew 22:39; 1 John 3:16.
14 Jesus is the greatest example of someone who showed such unselfish love. He loved his disciples so much that he willingly died for them. And he expects all of his followers to do the same. So we should be willing to endure difficulties and even die for our brothers and sisters.—1 Thessalonians 2:8.
DIRECTIONS FOR TODAY AND THE FUTURE
15, 16. What new circumstances do we now have, and how does God guide us?
15 Jesus has appointed “the faithful and discreet slave” to give his followers spiritual “food at the proper time.” (Matthew 24:45-47) This food includes important directions for God’s people when circumstances change. How are our circumstances new?
16 We are living in “the last days,” and very soon we will experience a tribulation like nothing that has happened before. (2 Timothy 3:1; Mark 13:19) Also, Satan and his demons have been thrown out of heaven and down to the earth, causing much suffering to mankind. (Revelation 12:9, 12) Additionally, we are obeying Jesus’ command by preaching all over the world to more people and in more languages than ever before!
17, 18. How should we respond to the guidance being given?
17 God’s organization gives us many tools to help us in the preaching work. Do you use them? At our meetings, we receive guidance on how to use these tools in the best way. Do you view these directions as guidance from God?
18 To receive God’s blessing, we need to pay attention to all the directions he gives us through the Christian congregation. If we obey now, it will be easier to follow directions during the “great tribulation,” when Satan’s entire wicked world will be destroyed. (Matthew 24:21) After that, we will need new directions for life in a righteous new world that will be totally free of Satan’s influence.
19, 20. What scrolls will be opened, and with what result?
19 In Moses’ day, the nation of Israel needed new directions, so God gave them the Law. Later, the Christian congregation had to follow “the law of the Christ.” Similarly, the Bible tells us that in the new world, we will receive scrolls with new directions. (Read Revelation 20:12.) Most likely, these scrolls will explain Jehovah’s requirements for mankind at that time. By studying these, all people, including resurrected ones, will be able to know what God wants for them. The scrolls will help us to learn more about Jehovah’s way of thinking. We will also understand the Bible better, so in Paradise we will treat one another with love, respect, and honor. (Isaiah 26:9) Imagine how many things we will learn and teach others under the direction of the King, Jesus Christ!
20 If we follow the directions “written in the scrolls” and we remain faithful to Jehovah during the final test, he will permanently write our names in “the scroll of life.” We can receive everlasting life! So we need to STOP to read what the Bible says, LOOK to understand what it means for us, and LISTEN by obeying God’s guidance now. If we do these things, we can survive the great tribulation and enjoy learning about our wise and loving God, Jehovah, forever.—Ecclesiastes 3:11; Romans 11:33.